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Sarasota Art Museum showcases works of Hermitage visual artists

The exhibition is the first collaboration between the two area cultural organizations.

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For the recent nationwide AEP6 study by Americans for the Arts, the Arts & Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County identified more than 200 nonprofit arts and culture organizations in our area. 

Now imagine what happens when those 200 arts groups start collaborating with each other. The cross-pollination possibilities are endless. Just look at the annual Cirque du Voix, a partnership between Key Chorale and the Circus Arts Conservatory, or this season’s joint production by Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe and Sarasota Contemporary Dance. 

The latest example of two cultural dynamos collaborating in Sarasota County is an exhibition called “Impact” at the contemporary Sarasota Art Museum filled with the works of fellows of the Hermitage Artist Retreat on Manasota Key. 

“Impact” marks the first exhibition partnership between the 22-year-old Hermitage and SAM, a unit of Ringling College of Art and Design that officially opened in 2019. The result is mind-blowing, as they used to say back in the ’60s.

Hermitage Greenfield Prize Winner Trenton Doyle Hancock's work, "Undom Endgle and the Souls' Journey," is part of the "Impact" show at the Sarasota Art Museum.
Image courtesy of Michael Underwood

Curated by Dan Cameron, who served on the Hermitage’s National Curatorial Council for 10 years, “Impact: Contemporary Artists at the Hermitage Artist Retreat” includes 10 Hermitage Fellows representing a broad range of media — painting, sculpture, installation, photography, video, music, performance, conceptual art, ceramics, weaving and printmaking.

According to Cameron’s statement, the works on display by Diana Al-Hadid, Sanford Biggers, Chitra Ganesh, Todd Gray, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Michelle Lopez, Ted Riederer, John Sims, Kukuli Velarde and William Villalongo push traditional boundaries of style and discipline while exploring themes and subjects that have affected the artists personally.

"The impact of 'Impact' lies as much in the striking visual narratives it presents as in its ability to provoke introspection in us and spark dialogue among us," says SAM Senior Curator Rangsook Yoon.

All 10 artists had the opportunity to take a break from their regular life and attend an artist residency at the Hermitage Artist Retreat’s historic beachfront campus. 

“There is something to be said about the physical impact that occurs when a hard-working creative person, whose typical working environment is likely a noisy metropolis, and whose typical day is a string of deadlines and interruptions, wakes up on their first morning at the Hermitage — or their 11th morning — face to face with the splendor of the Gulf of Mexico stretching out to the horizon and the contours of the day ahead beckoning a mystery waiting to be revealed,” Cameron writes. 

In exchange for the Gulf Coast hospitality of the Hermitage, the artists in residence agree to interact with the Sarasota community with a performance or an exhibit, in the case of visual artists.

According to Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg, many of the world-class artists who come to the Hermitage hadn’t heard of Sarasota until they got here. “These are artists whose works are on display in galleries and museums around the world. This exhibition really raises the bar for visual arts in Sarasota,” he says.

“It’s such a privilege to be part of the birthing process of their art and then to come full circle and help introduce their work to the community,” he adds.

Here’s a sampler of four artists in the “Impact” exhibition, displayed on SAM’s second floor. 


Diana Al-Hadid

Born in Aleppo, Syria, and currently working in Brooklyn, New York, Diana Al-Hadid draws inspiration from ancient and modern civilizations in her sculpture, wall reliefs and works on paper. In SAM’s “Impact” exhibition, Al-Hadid’s vinelike sculpture “Seed” (2023) of stems and leaves rises up from a bronze base that both supports and inhibits the structure. 

The works of Diana Al-Hadid are featured in the Sarasota Art Museum's exhibition, "Impact: Contemporary Artists at the Hermitage Artist Retreat."
Image courtesy of Ryan Gamma

“With an implicit suggestion of growth over time, the forces reaching upward and outward coalesce into a driving force which is nonetheless permanently tethered to the earth,” writes Cameron. 

Also on display is “Al’Ayn,” Al-Hadid’s arresting wall hanging made of polymer gypsum, fiberglass, steel, plaster, metal leaf and pigment. 

Chitra Ganesh

In Chitra Ganesh’s collage-painting “After the Storm,” three figures stand side by side. Two of them are headless. They are accompanied by a seated deer with the face of a human. What exactly is Ganesh trying to tell us in this meditation on identity? A lot of the answer is in the eye of the beholder.

Chitra Ganesh's collage-painting "After the Storm" is part of the "Impact" exhibition at the Sarasota Art Museum, which runs through July 7.
Image courtesy of Dan Bradica

In her artist’s statement on her website, Ganesh, who was born in Brooklyn, says she draws on Hindu and Buddhist symbols and attempts to reconcile them with images of femininity, sexuality and power missing from artistic and literary classics. She says she is rethinking her relationship to iconic religious characters in light of the rise of right-wing fundamentalism in India.

Ted Riederer

If you yearn for the days when there were record stores dotting Main Streets and malls across America, don’t miss Ted Riederer’s installation, “Never Records,” in the “Impact” exhibit. 

"Never Records" is a pop-up recording studio by Ted Riederer that is part of the "Impact" exhibition at the Sarasota Art Museum. Riederer will conduct recording sessions for museum attendees from June 3-9.
Courtesy image

First presented about a dozen years ago at the former Tower Records flagship, “Never Records” has traveled the globe in the years since. Wherever Riederer brings the vinyl emporium, he gives local musicians the opportunity to cut a record in a pop-up studio in the space. He keeps one copy of the record for a bin in his “store” and gives the artist another copy.

Lovers of vinyl can listen to records made by Sarasota artists in the Never Records installation with the help of a docent wearing the signature SAM pink apron.

John Sims

It wasn’t by design, but vinyl aficionados can also play a record in the room at the “Impact” exhibition dedicated to the late artist John Sims. A native of Detroit who taught at Ringling College of Art and Design, Sims died in December 2022 at age 54.

During his artistic career, Sims used theatrics to unmask everyday racism with such electrifying installations as “The Recoloration Reclamation,” which appeared at The Ringling Museum in February 2021.

Visitors to the Sarasota Art Museum can listen to a record that features the song "Dixie" played in various musical styles, including blues, gospel and funk.
Photo by Monica Roman Gagnier

The record you can listen to at SAM is a John Sims Project called “The AfroDixie Remixes” featuring multiple reinterpretations of the Southern standard, including blues, gospel and jazz, to name a few. “The land of cotton” will never be the same.

For those visitors who haven’t touched a turntable in 40 years, putting on headphones and moving the record player’s arm over to the vinyl disc can be a deliciously tactile experience. 

But it’s just one exhibit in the room dedicated to Sims. There’s a quilt, a canvas that demonstrates Sims’ love of mathematics and a chilling self-portrait of the artist dressed in overalls in front of the Confederate flag and a noose.

There is so much going on at SAM’s “Impact” exhibition that it might take more than one visit to the museum to take it all in.



Monica Roman Gagnier

Monica Roman Gagnier is the arts and entertainment editor of the Observer. Previously, she covered A&E in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for the Albuquerque Journal and film for industry trade publications Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.

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